Risk Management in Practice Learning Stream

Humanitarians inherently work in places of high fragility, conflict, or instability. These characteristics are part of defining where humanitarian action is needed in the first place and impact their ability of humanitarian actors to accomplish their mission of reducing human suffering.

The humanitarian imperative requires humanitarian organisations to accept a culture of risk in order to operate effectively in such environments. While risk awareness is embeded in the culture of humanitarian work, risk management is not. Therefore, it is critical for NGOs to understand how to identify and manage risk.

In this context, ICVA and PHAP’s fifth online Learning Stream “Risk Management in Practice” provides a platform for the NGO community to share their current practice, discuss, and learn from one another in order to better understand how to manage risks when working in the humanitarian sector and apply it in their day-to-day work.


The “Risk Management in Practice” Learning Stream provides NGO staff, including field, policy and headquarter staff an opportunity to:

  1. make the discussion on risk management more accessible to practitioners and decision-makers;
  2. Examine some of the core risk management issues unique to the humanitarian space;
  3. ensure existing risk management tools and lessons are identified and understood;
  4. explore the avenues available for humanitarian actors to improve how they manage risk in their organisations;
  5. hear from different actors working on these issues on how to build synergies;
  6. understand the challenges, risks, and opportunities for principled and effective humanitarian action, especially at the country and regional levels;
  7. become acquainted with the efforts underway to help NGOs and other actors improve how they manage risk;

The ICVA-PHAP Learning Streams are open to anyone interested in improving their understanding of the risk management in the humanitarian sector.

To get an introduction to the topic of this new Learning Stream, we suggest that you view the ICVA-PHAP webinar  Risky Business: Reframing the fundamentals of risk management for humanitarians (part of the Learning Stream Navigating Change)



Topic 1: Security Risk Management and Duty of Care during COVID-19, 3 June 2020

This event unpacked security risk management and linked issues of duty-of-care in humanitarian programming from the perspective of INGOs, local and national NGOs, Donors and UN agencies, framed around the mounting challenges presented by COVID-19 response.

The event covered:

  • ICVA SRM paper (coming soon)
  • Duty of Care – including risk transfer and risk sharing
  • COVID-19 specific risk (health, violence against expats, lack of evacuations)
  • Localisation – reliance on local NGOs due to above challenges 


Topic 2: Balancing Risk Appetite and Risk Tolerance in Humanitarian Operations, 8 September 2020

This event will focus on the twin concepts of risk tolerance and risk appetite. Following an introductory briefing on these concepts, the event will cover the practical challenges in identifying risk appetite and risk tolerance for NGOs together with a panel of experts.

Risk appetite is the willingness or desire to take on risk. While this can (and should) vary between organisations, risk appetite in the humanitarian community is generally high due to the inherently high-risk contexts in which humanitarian operations take place. If risk appetite is the willingness to take on risk, risk tolerance is the ability to do so. Tolerance may vary depending on the individual risk areas faced by humanitarian organizations in their operations.


Topic 3: The Impact of Bank De-risking on Humanitarian Action: 22 October 2020

Date and content of webinar to be confirmed soon. 

Topic 4: Duty of Care

Date and content of webinar to be confirmed soon. 

Topic 5: Donor Trust and Risk Sharing

Date and content of webinar to be confirmed soon. 



ICVA’s 2020 Annual Conference Protecting principled humanitarian action: an honest conversation on risk”, 19 March 2020

ICVA’s briefing paper “Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce: Localisation in the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response” (30 March)

ICVA’s Risk Management resource page

ICVA briefing riefing paper, "Risk and Humanitarian Culture"

ICVA-PHAP webinar "Risky Business: Reframing the fundamentals of risk management for humanitarians", 21 November 2019

All ICVA briefing papers are available here 

Global Inter-agency Security Forum (GISF) website

InterAction, Resources on NGO Risk Management